Kiss for a Killer by "G. G. Fickling" (Forrest and Gloria Fickling) (1960)
Oh, Honey. The blonde bombshell of my childhood. A cross between Marilyn Monroe and Mike Hammer. The not-so-tough tough PI with a problem of keeping her clothes on. The babe who deliciously packed a pair of 38s (and I'm not talking about guns -- she measures 38-22-36).
The Honey West books made a lot of money for Pyramid Books back in the day.
I suppose I should make a confession here. I only read one Honey West book when I was in high school, and I've completely forgotten which one. I'll try to explain why.
The Ficklings -- sportswriter Forrest and fashion writer Gloria -- were friends with Richard S. Prather, the creator of Shell Scott. Shell Scott was one of my favorite fictional characters while I was in high school (and after). Honey West was marketed as a female Shell Scott, so I thought I'd give her a try. (That sentence doesn't read like I thought it would. Sorry.) The Shell Scott books were fast-moving, action-packed adventures heavily laced with implied sex and humor. Honey West had fast-moving, action-packed adventures, but the implied sex was boring and the humor was somewhat hard to find, and when you did it was forced and decidedly unfunny. So, thanks anyway, Honey. I'm going back to Shell Scott.
Shell Scott's adventures could be zany. Honey West's were incomprehensible.
Nonetheless, the Honey West series lasted for eleven books from 1957 to 1971 and one short story. Her popularity zoomed a bit with the appearance of a Honey West television series from producer Aaron Spelling (30 episodes, 1965-6), starring Anne Francis. The series also spawned a one-shot comic book, a board game, a Honey West doll (with accessories), and a music soundtrack. Over the past decade, Moonstone comics revived Honey with a series of comics books and comic book crossovers with such chacters as T.H.E. Cat and Kolchak, the Nightstalker, as well as an anthology of original Honey stories. In 2009, John Frederickson attempted to de-bimbo Honey in his book Honey West; the books appears to have approached the television honey rather than the book Honey.
The TV Honey was vastly different from the Honey created by the Ficklings. For one thing, the television Honey kept her clothes on. For another, the television Honey had a pet ocelot named Bruce. (WTF??!!??) And since this was the mid-Sixties and James Bond and john Steed and Napoleon Solo were a thing (dang! another sentence that doesn't read like I though it would), Honey became a detective/intelligence agent tooling around in a high-tech crime van with her partner, Sam Bolt (whose was Johnny Doom in the books, a character introduced later in the series and who appeared only in a few books)
Let's go back to Kiss for a Killer. This was the sixth book in the series. Honey is running H. West Investigations, which she took over when her father Hank was murdered some five years before. Hank's killer was never caught -- something that seems to bother Honey once in a while. Honey is somewhere in her late twenties and has three close male friends: Charlie April, a 300-pound bookie who runs her answering service, Mark Storm, a police lieutenant and occasionally more than a friend (if you get what I mean -- nudge, nudge, wink, wink), and Fred Sims, one-legged newspaper reporter and combat hero, complete with a Congressional Medal of Honor.
We open with Mark calling Honey to report that football player Rip Spensor has been found dead, run over by a steam roller. Rip and Honey had had a fling a while ago and remained friends. Honey hops into her care to go to the scene but someone has sprinkled the inside of her car with trap door spiders. Honey is bitten and passes out. If you think this is ludicrous, look what happens next.
Honey is forced off the road by a naked driver. The man, tall and really buffed, hops into Honey's car and says he wants to hire her. He is Adam Jason, a Sun Soul, a follower and Director of Thor Tunny's "health" cult in the San Bernardino Hills. (Rip, it turns out, had briefly been a member of the cult. ) Adam then "blesses" Honey with a full kiss on the lips. Honey leaves Adam in her office where he puts on some clothes -- one of Honey's blouses and a partially zipped skirt. This is a no-no, even in the swinging Sixties. Honey digs around and finds some of her father's old clothes and tosses them to him. (Yes, she's been keeping a dead man's clothes in her office for half a decade.) Leaving Adam there she heads home where a naked Italian movie star pulls a gun on her. This is Angela Scali, who had disappeared several months ago on the same night she had won an Oscar. Evidently she had been at Tunney's clothes-not-optional cult the whole time. How she managed to get from there to downtown Los Angeles stark naked is not explained. She wants to kill Honey for killing Rip. Then somehow a mental switch in her brain is pulled and Angela has no idea where she is or what she is doing there or why she is naked. The last thing she remembers is receiving her Oscar. Suddenly the lights in Honey's apartment goes out. Someone crashes through her door. And Angela uses her gun to clock Honey unconscious.
Things begin to get confusing. We meet Thor Tunny, who is using his money-making cult for sex and torture games. (And why does his smarmy, superior personality remind me of Donald Trump?) We meet Toy Tunny, Thor's twisted daughter who is into S&M. And Rip's cousin Ray Spensor, who has a college boy grin and a penchant for deceit. To this mix let's add Angela's agent, Sol Wetzel, another kinky person, but with the added attraction of a gambling addiction.
With a few exceptions, every male in the novel is lusting after Honey. And, to be honest, I've lost count of how many times Honey is nude, stripped naked (or partially so), or is forced to take off her clothes. The authors, although happy to include a whole bunch of these scenes, gloss over them in a boring fashion, which begs the question WHY? (Yeah, I know why, but these scenes are so tame they wouldn't even get a teenage boy's juices flowing.)
Anyway, Angela is found dead, stabbed over twenty times and then hung from a tree. And Sol Wetzel is killed, stabbed in what could be called a "locked" room. And sicko Thor Tunny manages to hypnotize Honey into taking off her clothes and threatens her with a torture chamber before she manages to escape. Then Toy Tunney manages to tie Honey (naked, of course) to a chair and leaves her to die of cold and/or starvation in a mountain cabin. Honey's friend Fred tries to kill her with his cane. Honey's car goes over a cliff and hangs precariously above the rocks by a broken guard rail. Honey stumbles onto a drug-crazed party where she is almost raped and tortured. Fred tries to throw Honey off a roller coaster. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.
Throughout the book, Mark and Honey exchange banter where Mark continues to refer to Honey with a "Four Poster" nickname and hints that she will sleep with anyone. Fun times. And a real nice guy, that Mark.
With all the above, why the hell should you read the book?
Damned if I know.
I do now that I will probably read more of Honey's incoherent adventures because I'm that kind of guy.
And I have no taste.